Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanks giving

Lately, especially during long walks on crisp sunny Colorado mornings, I realize how fortunate I am and I say it out loud thank you Universe, thank you God.  I offer up my gratitude for being a very lucky women:  I have a kind husband who is my dearest friend, a little backyard garden that produces organic food, children who are grown and healthy and offering the world great services, a sturdy mid-century modern home that is almost paid for, a solid college education that helps me understand the ways of the world, a strong body that keeps going without injury, and rocket bombs are not raining over my head. I am very grateful.  Of course, there were many years in my life when things were not so good:  when I wasn’t married to my best friend but an enemy, when I lost a home I helped create to my ex-husband’s gambling debts, when I was worried how to feed my children and whether the divorce scarred them for life, and often I wondered if I would ever find love again. There is a line in the book and movie “Out of Africa” written by Isak Dinesen (aka Karen Christenze Blixen) that goes like this: God made the world round so we would never be able to see too far down the road. Sometimes in life we do not know the good (or the bad) that may befall us in our future. 

The holidays have arrived and I do love to prepare food—heart-warming healthy food. It feels satisfying and well, it just feels like love. And I do this job pretty much 330 days a year (I rely on leftovers to fill in for the other days). Yet, I must say, after preparing Thanksgiving Dinner for four decades—preparing the large tedious turkey dinner with more side dishes than a hooker has high heels—it no longer excites. Rather, it depletes me and the monthly budget, and adds a bit of stress (what size turkey should I get this year, who has the best free-range birds, how many bags of fresh cranberries do I need, how many vegetable casseroles is enough, will the gravy turn out, pumpkin pie or apple or both, what if I don’t have enough funds in my bank account, how many will I feed, on and on). Sometimes I wonder why women often do not get a holiday on a holiday. They are busy working in the kitchen making holiday happen for their family or loved ones. Rituals are lovely and very important, but for those who create them they can be tedious. Maybe there should be a new ritual that a woman who prepares Thanksgiving dinner at her home one year must not be a allowed to do it again for another 5 years—it must be passed around to others before it comes back to roost. Or perhaps after a certain age we just pass the whole mess on to the younger set. I could get behind this wholeheartedly.

Truth be known, I am really not that crazy about turkey. It is fairly high-maintenance poultry to prepare—it requires brining, basting or cooking upside down for a few hours, and even enveloping in some space-age clear bag. Upon consumption, turkey triggers a L-tryptophan reaction leaving one resembling the smokers in a hazy opium den. Perhaps, the football results may further add to the guest's depression. On the other hand, I do adore the mashed sweet potatoes, moist stuffing and pumpkin pie, but not the awful over-eating we all are guilty of on this day.  And let’s not forget the grueling clean-up—the challenge of finding the right size plastic container to store the leftovers in the fridge hoping everything fits, and the never ending scrubbing of casserole dishes, pots and pans.  I cannot imagine what is must have been like for my mom (or her mom’s generation). These women did not have the helping hand of an electric dishwasher which super cleans all our plates, glasses, goblets and silverware with ease.  Another reason for us to be thankful.

I wonder what stuffing a turkey and ourselves has to do with expressing gratitude. Is it the ritual of breaking bread with family and friends? Perhaps it is the gift of the cook to the family—saying here is my enormous spread, come partake and make your selves sick with gluttony and me with exhaustion—that we should be grateful for along with the bountiful gifts that nature (and the food industry) provides us. I suppose I am just questioning things more now. Why do we have to do this every year (in addition to the big Christmas/Chanukah celebration) because our cultural history requires us to? Earlier in my life I was just so dang eager to please, be a good mom, and feed people. Why can’t we take an occasional sabbatical from the rituals? Seriously would the sun not come out tomorrow? Would the Thanksgiving police show up at the door?

I can conjure up only one positive to preparing the big dinner—good old leftovers. Those leftovers finally pay off for all the work up front—all the planning, shopping, washing, preparing, chopping, cutting, sauteing, mashing, whipping, rolling, baking, serving and finally cleaning up. All I had to do after Thursday ended was throw together a hot turkey sandwich with cranberries and gravy for the next few days.  That was the leftover blessing.  Yum.

I hope everyone enjoys a great Thanksgiving this year and finds good reasons to be grateful. I hope you express gratitude for the cook/s (even if the dinner turns out slightly different from a Norman Rockwell painting). Lastly, if you really don’t feel up to it maybe this year you can take a break and go to a little French restaurant for Thanksgiving instead of hosting the whole affair at home. To be sure, I have witnessed some very happy unstressed people breaking bread at a great local French restaurant in Denver. The cost was less than what one spends at the grocery store and you probably would not miss the preparation and clean-up either. You may miss the leftovers but it would be a good trade. And I promise the sun will come out the next day. 



  1. Your post is so rich and full of insights. I particularly love the quote from 'Out of Africa'... 'God made the world round so we would never be able to see too far down the road.' Yes, I suppose that's how we're toned up for faith. Trusting in a benevolent God who leads every step of the way... something to be thankful for. I always admire your Thanksgiving, much more meaningful and sumptuous than ours in Canada. A Happy Thanksgiving Weekend to you and yours, Hedda!

    1. Thank you so much for reading my blog post - to be sure I have been absent from blogging for a while as I felt that my words or thoughts were never read by anyone :( so your comment brought me joy!! I read your blog all the time -- i love that it is so educational (i am slightly bookish myself) and beautifully written, and i love your sharing of books, birds, movies etc. (all my hobbies).